Under the Australian OHS Acts, employers are required to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety at work of their employees.
Employers must consult with their employees when assessing a risk to the health and safety of employees at any workplace under the employer’s control.
Consultation is also required in the selection and application of control measures. In assessing the risks posed by a pandemic, employers should consult widely using existing workplace arrangements ranging from committee or workgroup meetings down to tool box talks or daily pre-starts.
Employees also have duties under the OHS Acts. Employees must co-operate with their employer in implementing risk control measures. They should take practical steps to ensure they don’t do anything that creates or increases a risk to the health and safety of themselves or others.
In a pandemic situation it is reasonable to expect that these obligations placed on the employee and employer will include complying with public health advice such as the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Department of Health & Human Services website – https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus and any emergency measures such as the stage 3 restrictions introduced in Victoria (7th April until 11th May at the time of writing)
As part of planning and preparedness, risk management should be applied to pandemic health and safety risks. This involves identifying and assessing the likely risks at the workplace and those risks associated with the way work is performed. Risk control measures to eliminate or minimise risks need to be determined. Risk management should be done in consultation with employees and call on expert advice when needed.
What new have found during this crisis is that employers are finding the task of adequately identifying and addressing all workplace risks with practicable control measures a daunting task.
When we consider the literal overnight changes to the way we live our lives, the negative mental health effects that come with the mandatory social distancing and stay at home orders the government is currently enforcing it is easy to see why employers may struggle to comprehensively manage the risk control of the Coronavirus outbreak at their workplaces.
Through the provision of support services such as COVID-19 response audits we may be able to provide some relief and assistance to employers and provide assurance that they are doing the right things and complying with the aforementioned legal obligations. We may also be able to identify any areas of concern in an employer’s COVID-19 risk management and provide direct recommendations on how to adequately address these areas of concern.
Posted By: Cathal Uniacke – firstname.lastname@example.org